If you grew up during the early days of Nintendo and Sega, then there is a very good chance you had a copy of Street Fighter 2. Growing up, I remember the game being a staple in my childhood and how we would sit around the tv for hours challenging each other. Friendships were built and broken because of Street Fighter, even after many years have passed, I find myself thinking about how a friend pulled off certain wins. Those feelings never really left me as Street Fighter continued to be a part of my life and now in 2016, I can create all new memories with Street Fighter V.
Street Fighter V is the Sony exclusive sequel to the wonderful Ultra Street Fighter IV, and like its predecessor, V is looking to reinvent the series all over again. As with previous entries, the game provides a roster mixed with familiar faces and some new challengers. You can still play as Ryu, Ken and Chun-li or try your luck with newcomers like Laura, Necalli and Rashid. Each character bringing a unique play style with them, making the match-ups even more enthralling. But first things first, what exactly is Street Fighter V? How does it stack up to the legacy of the series? What sets it apart from the previous game and most importantly, will being a PS4 exclusive hurt the series?
Graphically the game is similar to Ultra SF4 in that it still uses fully 3D rendered models and backgrounds while maintaining the traditional 2D gameplay. Where it differs is that the models have taken a slightly more detailed approach when compared to the slightly cartoonish predecessor. One of the slight differences I noticed was the absence of the brush stroke visual accents from Ultra that made the visuals pop. Make no mistake, Street Fighter V is a beautiful game and is more than capable of standing on its own in that department.
The character designs themselves are absolutely gorgeous. All the characters you grew up with have never looked better than they do now. Keeping with tradition, characters sport their traditional attire or slight variations of them and just as it was with previous titles, the characters utilize colors from across the entire spectrum. While that might sound like a minor thing, modern games are afraid of color and too often opt for that gritty, ultra realism look that usually ends up being a mess of browns and grey. Street Fighter is a game that doesn’t need to be photo realistic, the game was always the more light-hearted side of fighting games and deserves an art style that encompasses that feeling of fun and that’s exactly what Street Fighter V does.
Now I know most people that play this game religiously will want to know about the gameplay. Well the game feels like Street Fighter which is good and should be expected. But… and this is a minor but… I felt like I had to relearn the game to some extent. Now to play devil’s advocate, it has been a couple months since I booted up Ultra Street Fighter IV and with fighting games it is easy to become rusty if you take an extended break, but this game felt newer than I had hoped. This isn’t a bad thing because I love to learn new characters and new fighting systems, but with characters that span the entire series, it felt off when certain move sets weren’t the same.
With that being said, the mechanics are fairly smooth for launch. No longer do you have your focus attacks but instead have your V-Gauge. The V-Gauge can be used multiple ways including reversals (Ryu parrying an attack or Bison deflecting projectiles) or triggers that can give a character a unique but temporary boost. Ultras are still around but are now called “Critical Arts” and can be triggered by building your EX gauge. These minor changes make the game feel like a mix of old and new and reminds me a bit more of Street Fighter 3. Lastly, the framerate appears to be running at 60fps but I did notice a slight drop in framerate during background animations. This could be distracting and will likely be addressed in a future update.
Now this is where the game could use a boost. At launch the game will contain 16 characters that are fully available to use. You can play story mode, survival, training or online against people around the world. This all sounds great but what does it really offer? Let’s take a quick dive into a few of them.
- Story Mode: This mode offers brief snippets of cutscenes that consist of still images and audio overlapping. While the effect is simple, it lacks any real substance and does not capture your attention like the animation did in its predecessor. Each character has a story that ranges from 2-3 single round matches (sometimes includes fighting the same character twice) that begin and end with a brief scene depicting their place in the timeline. Story mode does not offer any variation in difficulty and can be completed within an hour. While there was never really a story mode in the series, the game has a rich history that could have benefitted from this mode but was unfortunately put together half-heartedly.
- Survival: This is like your traditional arcade experience where you face a gauntlet of characters in succession. Like the title states, it’s a test of your ability to survive the onslaught meaning any damage you receive stays with you into the next match. Every block counts and timing will be an important tool if you want to succeed. After each match, you will be given an option to purchase a boost that will help you continue but at a cost to your overall score. This mode does offer the ability to adjust difficulty and feels like the perfect way to practice your skills.
- Training: Training is simply that. You pick your character and your opponent and set the game to react however you see fit. If your biggest weakness comes from air assaults, then this is where you can learn to overcome it.
- Ranked/Online: Simple set up. You can either go toe-to-toe against a player for fun and to train each other, or you can test your skills against your online opponent that will either see you gain experience with victory or lose experience with defeat. This will be where players really test the longevity of the game.
There is little extra content in Street Fighter V that really sets it apart from previous entries. In fact they removed the trials mode that was in Ultra Street Fighter 4. I remember spending hours on top of hours in trials, learning combos that would eventually help me defeat my opponents. Trials would be a welcome addition in a future update.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the series then you will enjoy the game. Newcomers will likely have fun but without a dedicate mode to help improve someone that is green, it may be a bit more difficult to find that enjoyment. Also, being exclusive to only the PS4 may find many people upset as the series has always been multi-platform for the most part and being the Sony backed the game financially, it is very unlikely it will ever see release on Xbox One. What little the game lacks can easily be implemented in the future. Lastly, for those diehards out there with a previous PS3 arcade stick, you can use it with your PS4.